Background: In low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), household air pollution as a result of using solid biomass for cooking, lighting and heating (HAP) is associated with respiratory infections, accounting for approximately 4 million early deaths each year worldwide. The majority of deaths are among children under five years. This population-based cross-sectional study investigates the association between solid biomass usage and risk of acute respiratory infections (ARI) and acute lower respiratory infections (ALRI) in 37 LMICs within Africa, Americas, Southeast Asia, European, Eastern Mediterranean and Western Pacific regions.
Materials and methods: Using population-based data obtained from Demographic and Health surveys (2010-2018), domestic cooking energy sources were classified solid biomass (wood, charcoal/dung, agricultural crop) and cleaner energy sources (e.g., Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG), electricity, biogas and natural gas). Composite measures of ARI (shortness of breath, cough) and ALRI (shortness of breath, cough and fever) were composed using maternally reported respiratory symptoms over the two-week period prior to the interview. Multivariable logistic regression was used to identify the association between biomass fuel usage with ARI and ALRI, accounting for relevant individual, household and situational confounders, including stratification by context (urban/rural).
Results: After adjustment, in the pooled analysis, children residing in solid biomass cooking households had an observed increased adjusted odds ratio of ARI (AOR: 1.17; 95% CI: 1.09-1.25) and ALRI (AOR: 1.16; 95% CI 1.07-1.25) compared to cleaner energy sources. In stratified analyses, a comparable association was observed in urban areas (ARI: 1.16 [1.06-1.28]; ALRI: 1.14 [1.02-1.27]), but only significant for ARI among those living in rural areas (ARI: 1.14 [1.03-1.26]).
Conclusion: Switching domestic cooking energy sources from solid biomass to cleaner alternatives would achieve a respiratory health benefit in children under five years worldwide. High quality mixed-methods research is required to improve acceptability and sustained uptake of clean cooking energy source interventions in LMIC settings.
Keywords: acute respiratory infection; biomass cooking; household air pollution; low and middle-income countries.